LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Freedom of information

For some time, the Campaign has been calling on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to use its power to issue enforcement notices against authorities which repeatedly breach the Freedom of Information Act’s time limits

An enforcement notice could require a public authority to reply to all outstanding FOI requests by a specified deadline – unlike a decision notice, which can only deal with an individual request.

Newspapers and digitalNow, in response to an FOI request, the ICO has revealed that before the pandemic, it was moving towards using enforcement notices in this way – a welcome development:

  • In January 2020 it proposed issuing an enforcement notice against the Metropolitan Police, requiring it to clear all requests over 6 months old by 31 March 2020.
  • The same month, an enforcement notice was drafted against another unidentified ‘police and justice’ sector body, presumably a police force.
  • In November 2019 an enforcement notice was drafted against a third police force, which had 900 outstanding requests 3 months earlier. Because of significant improvements it was not issued.
  • An ICO September 2019 progress report reveals that an enforcement notice was also being considered against the London Borough of Croydon.
  • There was also “continuing engagement” with the Home Office and Department for Education over the lateness of their FOI replies.

The disclosures show that the ICO had at last been proposing a robust FOI enforcement approach. The pandemic appears to have brought it to a halt. Its May 2020 response to the FOI request states that the approach was changed “this month”, is now “out of date” and that the ICO will now “be concentrating on producing thematic reports, our FOI self-assessment toolkit, and sharing good practice”.

Whilst it is understandable that a new enforcement approach would not be introduced at the height of the pandemic, when some authorities are under particular pressure, a robust approach to enforcing FOI time limits is long overdue – and should be reinstated as soon as feasible.

You can help us raise awareness of the need and increase pressure for stronger FOI enforcement action by the ICO by:

  • forwarding this email to any contacts you think may be interested
  • sharing the link to our article or tweet on social media.

Many thanks

Katherine Gundersen

Campaign for Freedom of Information

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Supporter

For some time, the Campaign has been calling on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to use its power to issue enforcement notices against authorities which repeatedly breach the Freedom of Information Act’s time limits. 

An enforcement notice could require an authority to reply to all outstanding FOI requests by a specified deadline – unlike a decision notice, which can only deal with an individual request.

Now, in response to an FOI request, the ICO has revealed that before the pandemic, it was moving towards using enforcement notices in this way – a welcome development:

  • In January 2020 it proposed issuing an enforcement notice against the Metropolitan Police, requiring it to clear all requests over 6 months old by 31 March 2020.
  • The same month, an enforcement notice was drafted against another unidentified ‘police and justice’ sector body, presumably a police force.
  • In November 2019 an enforcement notice was drafted against a third police force, which had 900 outstanding requests 3 months earlier. Because of significant improvements it was not issued.
  • An ICO September 2019 progress report reveals that an enforcement notice was also being considered against the London Borough of Croydon.
  • There was also “continuing engagement” with the Home Office and Department for Education over the lateness of their FOI replies.

The disclosures show that the ICO had at last been proposing a robust FOI enforcement approach. The pandemic appears to have brought it to a halt. Its May 2020 response to the FOI request states that the approach was changed “this month”, is now “out of date” and that the ICO will now “be concentrating on producing thematic reports, our FOI self-assessment toolkit, and sharing good practice”.

Whilst it is understandable that a new enforcement approach would not be introduced at the height of the pandemic, when some authorities are under particular pressure, a robust approach to enforcing FOI time limits is long overdue – and should be reinstated as soon as feasible.

You can help us raise awareness of the need and increase pressure for stronger FOI enforcement action by the ICO by:

  • forwarding this email to any contacts you think may be interested
  • sharing the link to our article or tweet on social media. 

Many thanks! 

Katherine Gundersen

Campaign for Freedom of Information

 


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